Monday, June 30, 2014

Saturday Night Live Season 20 Reviews - Episode 6: John Tuturro/Tom Petty

“Let’s roll another joint.”

It’s A Wonderful Newt

5 Stars: The ghost of Richard Nixon shows Newt Gingrich what life would be like if he never became Speaker of The House

After last week’s lack of political humor in an election week, we get a really biting political sketch.  I like when the host appears in the cold open but John Turturro’s bizarre take on Nixon took me a second to figure out who he was, but then again who in the cast could have played Nixon?  Adam Sandler?  Jay Mohr? If Norm MacDonald could have done it I would be on board for that.  You have to think that when Newt Gingrich joined the media spotlight, SNL producers knocked on Farley’s door and said, “Congrats on the gig, you’re needed for a wig fitting.”

This was a real attack on Newt, he is really an evil man and this sketch doesn’t pull any punches.  Without Newt getting elected, Martini’s gun shop turns into an abortion clinic and Newt’s anti-cripple bill never passed.  They also get a real hard dig in at Nixon, saying he’s burning in hell.  My only problem with this sketch, which happened last week too, is that it is too well written for a cold open.  The ending of Farley yelling “Live from New York” is awkwardly timed.  I would have put this as the lead off sketch, but what do I know?

John Turturro Monologue

4 Stars: Turturro has to get in the Quiz Show booth to see if he’s capable of hosting

This is a standard monologue of mocking the reason why he’s hosting.  Here Turturro gets into the Quiz Show cube and answers questions about what the host usually says on the monologue.  His sweating was funny and I like his stunned expression when he’s searching for an answer to menial questions, like it’s great to be here in blank blank city.  It turns out the other competing host was Joey Buttafuco.  I mean he’s certainly a terrific actor and a national treasure and all, but what the hell was he doing there?

Eych! Hairball medication commercial - A rerun from last season

I never understood why SNL shows reruns of commercials.  I can get behind it if the show is running short and you throw it in at the end of the night, but to start the show off with a repeat, especially one with a voice-over from Phil Hartman, who isn’t on the show anymore, just feels lazy.

Christopher Walken Psychic Friends Network

1 Star: Walken and other celebrities want to be your psychic friend?

I was never a huge fan of Mohr’s Walken impression but that doesn’t matter because I don’t understand the concept of this sketch at all.  Walken hosts a celebrity psychic friends network with McKean as Gary Busey, Garofalo as Juliette Lewis and Turturro as Walken’s younger brother Eugene and the phone isn’t ringing.  Walken then asks people to call and give directions to their house, and if anyone wants to watch this and tell me what the premise is, be my guest, I’ve been trying to type an explanation for about 10 minutes and now I have to rewind because I’m halfway through Weekend Update now and missed a sketch.

Why are they psychic friends when they don’t know anything?  Was the idea to just gather creepy celebrities, or… this sketch is destroying me.  Why does Christopher Walken want to know directions to everyone’s house?  OK, I’m done thinking about this.

Addendum: After reading Jay Mohr’s book, “Gasping For Airtime”, it turns out that this sketch first appeared last season and is the same premise.  Apparently this was originally written by Mohr and Rob Schneider and after watching the original incarnation…still have no idea what this sketch was about.  This was apparently done at Turturro’s request because he wanted to showcase his Walken impression, but why psychic friends when they don’t even pretend to be psychics?  Mohr would later put his Walken impression to better use with an advertisement for Skittles later in the season.

Phone Etiquette

2 Stars: A man wants to talk to the person his wife is on the phone with, but she keeps hanging up

Here’s one of those classic SNL sketches that takes one joke and repeats it over and over again.  I call them lather, rinse, repeat sketches.  Sometimes that’s OK if the joke is funny but the joke here is that Garofalo keeps hanging up the phone.  It’s a premise that could have led to funny material but instead the sketch ends with Mike Myers playing a Chinese character like he did last episode.  I then wondered if the whole point of this sketch was to showcase Myers doing a Chinese stereotype and then I wondered if this was racist or not.  Then I wondered if I’m racist or not.  Then I wondered why this once promising episode suddenly fell down the crapper.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - “You Don’t Know How It Feels”

Here we go, you can’t go wrong with 90’s Tom Petty.  After last week’s f-bomb from Michael Stipe we get Tom Petty singing about rolling another joint, something that the music video for this song censored.  And just like that, my attitude has picked up because I know Weekend Update is coming up after this delightful song.

Weekend Update

5 Stars: “I guess being married to a homosexual pedophile wasn’t such a great idea”

We finally get the punch line to one of the most bizarre running jokes of all time.  David Hasselhoff comes out to talk about his world tour and Norm just wants him to prove his theory that Germans love him.  The Hoff’s performance wasn’t bad but having Norm pull out his mountain of evidence was the highlight of the segment.

Only lowlight was Mike Myers as Judge Ito, shamelessly relishing in his own fame.  Now I’m wondering if Mike Myers is racist.  I understand that if you’re doing an OJ sketch you need an Ito and they don’t have an Asian cast member but this is weird to have on Update when the pieces are either characters or excuses to do really good impressions.  Myers is just doing Myers in a beard and glasses down to the silly dance on the desk.  There’s a good premise here but after playing a Chinese guy this week and last week I can’t get past the fact that Myers is a white guy playing Asian stereotypes.

Best Jokes: Fergie, the duchess of York, turned down a role on Baywatch.  Now my research shows that Fergie is actually British, not German.  So while not proving, it certainly does nothing to disprove my theory, Germans love David Hasselhoff.

George Foreman says his autobiography will be an inspiration to anyone with a dream, while former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer wants his autobiography to be an inspiration for anyone who’s ever been beating up by an old man.

OJ Simpson revealed that Nicole Brown used to beat him up.  He also claimed that she and Ron Goldman killed him.

Ricki Lake was arrested for vandalism after demonstrating against fur.  She states that wearing fur is in bad taste.  She then returned to her studio where she taped an episode of her show titled: “Why Whores Get The Clap”.

Taxi Driver: The Musical

2 Stars: Martin Scorsese unveils his latest project, a musical version of Taxi Driver

When hosts do impressions I always wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg.  Did Turturro come in and say, “Hey, I got a killer Scorsese and a decent DeNiro” or was this a sketch in a writer’s head that just happened to work out?  His Scorsese is fun and high energy but his DeNiro doesn’t have the voice, although he does have the face down.  This is odd because Taxi Driver was 20 years old and the trend of movies becoming Broadway musicals hadn’t hit yet.  I don’t know if Turturro was doing this on purpose but he really can’t carry a tune and neither can the rest of the cast.  The songs could have been more fun because there’s really no joke here.  It also goes on way too long and the joke wears thin really quickly.  With a better concept, better songs and perhaps a different framing device this could have been classic, as it is, this is pretty forgettable except for the length.

David Spade performs the musical outro as Tom Petty with Tom Petty.  This isn’t a rateable segment but interesting and I like when they do these weird things in between bits.

Stop That

3 Stars: A talk show host annoyingly repeats everything his guests say

What the hell kind of idea was this, and how did it manage to work?  This is another sketch that repeats the same joke over and over but this time it built with each incarnation.  Turturro hosts a talk show but instead of interviewing guests he just does that annoying thing that kids do where they repeat the last thing you said until the guest says “Stop that!”

Turturro is all on board for this and instead of him just bringing on guest after guest, he takes a caller and imitates the dial tone and a classical guitarist and imitates the guitar.  The sketch didn’t really go anywhere but I’m so happy to have laughed after a while.

Jamaican Tourism

3 Stars: Jamaican resort workers are more than happy to cater to your every whim

A short little sketch that finally showcased the African American cast members.  There are some good jokes here and it got in and out quick.

Dr. Josh Levine Attack Ad

5 Stars: Dr. Ira Resnick launches a political attack ad on a rival dentist; his diploma is on the wall

This is a weird little bit which would have been better used a few episodes ago when the election was in progress.  I really like Turturro’s stilted line delivery and Elliott’s disgraced photos.

The Movie Club

3 Stars: Two weird brothers review movies on VHS

I actually enjoyed this for what it is, a chance to showcase Sandler’s goofy voice and mentally deficient characters. I would have liked to see more of what these two weirdos were about, but then again this season hasn’t been about character development.  Then it ended before it became too annoying.
My only complaint with this sketch is that we only got this oddball once.  It’s slightly hypocritical of me to say this, because I hate recurring characters, but I would have appreciated one more incarnation of this.  Who was their mom that was operating the VCR and what do these two brothers do when they’re not watching movies on VHS?  The joy on Turturro’s face when watching ‘City Slickers’ killed me.

The show ended with two more rival attack ads by competing dentists.  I would have preferred if this would have been a runner throughout the episode instead of jammed at the end.  It seems like they were hiding it when they really had nothing in the show before Weekend Update.  The re-run of this episode had another installment with Tim Meadows as a 3rd dentist but it didn’t make it into the live episode for time.


Did you know that Kevin Costner used real Indians in “Dances With Wolves”?  That must have saved him a lot of money on make-up.

Average: 3.7 Stars

MVP: Janeane Garofalo (It’s A Wonderful Newt, Christopher Walken, Phone Etiquette, Taxi Driver The Musical, Dr. Josh Levine Attack Ad)

Best Sketch: It’s A Wonderful Newt

Worst Sketch: Christopher Walken’s Psychic Friends Network

How I Would Have Lorne Michaels-ed It: This episode started off strong, then stumbled, then got its feet back.  If you swap the front half with the back half and sprinkle the dentist commercials throughout it would have been solid throughout.  Two bad sketches up front really killed the momentum.  I would have started with either “Stop That” or “Movie Club”, something that really showcased Turturro and then buried “Walken” as a 10-1 sketch.

Host Analysis: Turturro seemed to be having a lot of fun, which I like in a host.  Even though he kind of dominated this episode he really fit in well with the ensemble, if you take out the monologue and showed this episode to someone who never saw the show you could almost convince them that he was a cast member.

Final Thoughts: One thing I’m noticing in these episodes, even though we’re only 6 in, is how much they are letting the host dominate the proceedings.  I remember this season as the Sandler/Farley year but Farley wasn’t anywhere to be seen in this episode and so far this season Sandler has been relegated to the Update desk.  I can’t wait for this host domination to continue when we get seasoned professionals like Deion Sanders and George Foreman.

Up Next: Roseanne hosts and I think I watched this live but remember nothing from it.  I’m anticipating hating this episode but I hope I’m pleasantly surprised.  Going into it, I will say that I am not a Roseanne fan.

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